Morning Music: Woody Guthrie

Struggle - Woody GuthrieI can’t decide if I should do a straight series of worker songs. But when in doubt, I always go with a set schedule. So I thought today we would listen to Woody Guthrie doing “Union Burying Ground.” It is a commemoration of all the union workers and organizers who were killed in the struggle. It is filled with a religious conviction. It celebrates martyrdom. For example, it says, “Every new grave brings a thousand members…” And also, “I’m a gonna sleep in a union coffin…” These are committed statements.

As I noted before, I don’t have much ability when it comes to faith. This is why I make a terrible activist. You can’t work for change unless you think it is a real possibility. Cynicism gets you nowhere. At the same time, our own cynicism is the capitalists’ greatest tool. The last refuge of a conservative is, “They’re all the same! It’s all corrupt!” John Stuart Mill said, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” He wasn’t talking about the capitalist class, but he should have been.

2 thoughts on “Morning Music: Woody Guthrie

  1. Strange moment the other day… we were walking in the neighborhood and passed an ice cream truck. It had a very familiar tune coming out of it, I couldn’t place it at first.

    Then it hit me — Guthrie’s “The Union Maid”! “No, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking with the union.” Which is probably an ice cream truck song because it’s a catchy tune and public domain. Although I like to dream it’s because running an ice cream truck is a low-profit gig in the best of times and obviously tougher now, so maybe, possibly, a protest against the gig economy? In this neighborhood that would not be completely unimaginable. Minnesota has some very conservative districts and this is not one of them.

    • That’s great! As far as I can tell, it was first recorded in 1940, so it could be under copyright. It depends upon how it was released.

      Who owns ice cream trucks? It’s got to be a low-margin business. If you ever get a chance, watch Comfort and Joy (1984). Someone put a good copy on YouTube. It’s about a war between two ice cream truck companies. Well, it’s actually about this guy getting over being dumped who gets involved with this war. It’s the sweetest film! It’s my favorite Bill Forsyth film — and that says a lot because I really like his work!

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